Uphouse Farm, Fakenham, Norfolk
• Innovative business
• Tight cost control
• Strong concern for staff welfare
• Proactive in the wider industry
• Pioneering work with litter burning
Optimising bird welfare, making the most of new technology, motivating staff and earning a profit are all priorities for Norfolk broiler producer Nigel Joice.
Nigel has been producing chickens at Uphouse Farm since 1997, building the business up to a production level of 5.5 million broilers a year.
Stringent biosecurity is fundamental to meeting all of his objectives. All vehicles arriving at the farm get a good soaking from the automatic jet sprayers – and there has been significant investment in the sheds, which are now among the most sophisticated in the country.
They are all kitted out with misting equipment to raise humidity at chick start, for evaporative cooling in extreme heat and for disinfection at the end of every flock. “Having a sterile start is hugely important,” he says.
Computer technology connects all the poultry houses with the farm office and staff houses, so the birds’ environment and feed/water consumption can be checked 24/7, with adjustments made as necessary.
But Nigel believes strongly that computerised technology is merely an aid to good management. “The computer that can see, smell and listen does not exist, but the good stockman does,” he says.
As such, close attention is paid to staff welfare, providing top-quality housing and insisting they each get a week’s holiday per crop. “If something needs doing today, they’ll never leave it to tomorrow,” he says.
Nigel is also willing to experiment with different technologies. He is currently evaluating two different LED lighting systems as an alternative to windows. “I’m dead against windows, as they will increase our carbon footprint without any advantage for the chickens.”
Another example is his £1.8m investment into a new energy centre. This incorporates two 500kW biomass burners, fired by woodchip for now, but with a clear intention of switching to poultry litter when the law allows.
Three kilometres of pipework takes hot water to all 16 sheds, which is then pumped through Draper recirculation units – two to a house – to provide heating for the birds. “With no direct-fired gas heaters in the houses, we are seeing a huge improvement in the environment.”
Tight control is applied to the business side. “I do all the paperwork myself. I don’t have a secretary. It ensures I have my finger on the pulse.”
Feed is supplied by two companies. “They know this, so it helps keep them on their toes.” Nigel also incorporates up to 15% whole wheat into his ration and makes use of forward purchasing and options to iron out market volatility.
On the marketing side, all birds are sold to Banham Poultry at Attleborough. “We work closely with Banham and Morrisons, with regular meetings to listen and react to current requirements,” he says.
Nigel is also highly active off the farm, sitting on numerous committees and representative bodies, as he aims to “put something back into an industry that has given me so much”.
• 840,000 broilers
• 105ha of arable land
• Green energy centre to make use of poultry litter
“Farming excellence is critical, especially in these challenging times. Nigel demonstrates clearly what is needed to sustain a thriving UK poultry sector.”
Peter Miller, managing director, poultry division, Vion Food Group
2011 Farmers Weekly Awards